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Denver Broncos reportedly passed on Justin Fields due to medical concerns

Matt Fitzgerald

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”776833″ player=”23231″ title=”Will%20the%20Patriots%20Regret%20Drafting%20Mac%20Jones%20and%20not%20Trading%20Ahead%20of%20the%20Bears%20for%20Justin%20Fields” duration=”140″ description=”Carolyn Manno asks Phil Perry, Patriots reporter for NBCS Boston, if the New England Patriots should have traded up for Justin Fields. Perry thinks the Patriots drafted the exact QB they wanted.” uploaddate=”2021-05-05″ thumbnailurl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/thumb/776833_t_1620167291.png” contentUrl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/sd/776833.mp4″]

The Denver Broncos had a huge decision to make with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and rather than addressing their perceived quarterback need with Justin Fields, they selected cornerback Patrick Surtain II instead.

By all accounts, Surtain is living up to the hype in training camp and even had a pick-six in his preseason debut last week. However, if Drew Lock doesn’t develop into a franchise QB and instability continues to plague the Broncos at that position, they’ll have the ultimate regret for letting Fields slip by.

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson hosts a podcast titled You Pod to Win The Game, and in that, he reported recently that Denver was among the teams who didn’t medically clear Fields after he revealed his battle with epilepsy.

One Broncos personnel source explained to Robinson the thought process behind their final evaluation of Fields:

“It wasn’t the talent, we really liked the talent a lot. It was the medical. Look, the epilepsy…the concern about it was…the amount of risk that is there the day you draft him, versus what’s there 10 years down the line is the same. It never dissipates.”

Doubts also emerged from Denver’s staff about how Fields might hold up if he were to endure an NFL season full of brutal hits and lots of sacks taken.

Fields’ status as a dual-threat QB makes the evaluation and his unique medical situation all the more challenging. On one hand, his elusiveness and sheer speed can help him avoid hits better than most, but then he’s also going to be in more open-field situations as a ball-carrier, where defenders can tee off on him if he’s not careful.

See how high Patrick Surtain II and the Broncos D rates in our NFL defense rankings

Justin Fields’ medical issue was worth the risk for Chicago Bears

Justin Fields' medical issue was worth the risk for Chicago Bears
Aug 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) celebrates with wide receiver Riley Ridley (88) after throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Jesse James (not pictured) against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
  • Justin Fields stats (2020, Ohio State): 158-of-225 passing (70.2%), 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 81 carries, 383 yards, 5 touchdowns

When news initially broke that Fields suffered from epilepsy in the past, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported, “It has not affected football [and] doctors believe he’ll outgrow it as his other family members have.”

Fields showed plenty of toughness and took his fair share of hard hits during college at Ohio State, yet the medical issue never impacted his ability to play football at an elite level.

The Chicago Bears wound up trading up from 20th to 11th overall to select Fields in the draft. Thus far, he’s been extremely competitive for the starting job with veteran Andy Dalton, and the Bears could have, really, their first superstar signal-caller.

Are the Bears or Broncos going to the postseason in 2021? Read our NFL playoff predictions now

Any variety of factors can cause a prospect’s draft stock to drop. It’s just a matter of how much a particular team weighs certain attributes against others, and the Broncos clearly erred on the side of caution when it came to Fields’ evaluation.

At least there’s a sense that, based on this report, Denver recognized how Fields could be a superior player to the likes of Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. It was really all about whether or not Fields would be able to hold up long-term.

It’ll be years before we know if that medical issue does, in fact, pop up again for Fields. Until then, it seems like the Broncos have a seriously uphill battle in the AFC West division with Lock or Bridgewater under center, facing excellent counterparts like Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr twice per season.

Click here for our latest NFL power rankings to find out where the Broncos and Bears stack up